Tag Archives: permaculture flower

Permaculture Flower II

Permaculture FlowerI’m feeling really good about my new thinking on the permaculture flower, my thinking has congealed a bit since I first posted on it. All of a sudden I see what I previously perceived as a mundane categorization, as a valuable tool when examining and balancing any system.

David Holmgren, the co-originator of permaculture says “The permaculture flower shows key domains that require transformation to create a sustainable culture.” That is, each petal (or domain) represents a category into which we can apply permaculture in the world. But if you try to use the flower as a directional compass to orient yourself in that particular category, you’ll always find every domain simultaneously. Again and again there are always aspects of each topic that fit into each petal.

That is precisely what makes flower useful. Any subject, from something as general as farming to something as specific as a solar panel, manifests in all of these domains of the flower simultaneously. Together the flower represents the different facets of any single topic or object, therefore we can improve our designs by observing and interacting with each of these domains as we do our work.

As it manifests, permaculture is most obvious in the domains Land, Building, and Tools & Technology, in the physical world. It is less obvious in the other four domains of Education & Culture, Health & Spiritual Well-being, Finance & Economics, and Land Tenure & Community Governance. They represent what has been called “invisible structures” but perhaps is better called social systems as their patterns are quite visible, just often overlooked. An undeveloped petal would be a drag on any system, while conversely an over developed petal can not make up for the lack of development in the others.

In Practice

So for example, when we put up a gutter on a building not only does it interact with the flow of water and change the way that flow is distributed in a physical place(Land & Nature Stewardship), it is made of materials that were sourced and transported with a certain effect on the larger landscape (Building), and represents its own set of tools and concepts in its construction and installation (Tools & Technology). At the same time it also has a whole set of information about when and how we use it (Education & Culture), how it affects us physically and through our own vision of ourselves (Health & Spiritual Well-being), there is a whole economy behind that gutter as well as our means to obtain it (Finance & Economics), and finally there are certain regulations about what you can or can’t do in putting it up (Land Tenure & Community Governance).

In the example above, putting up a gutter may be no simple act when we consider all of the domains. It comes down to how wide of a view we’re willing and able to take. It also takes some prioritization to realize what is significant or what we can actually change. That’s where the ethics and principles or tools like the scale of permanence or the 8 forms of capital can help us to examine and connect to the different domains and create lasting, beneficial change in a healthy system.

The different petals together represent:

Land & Nature Stewardship – A specific place and its inhabitants, how they increase or decrease the ecology. What is the cause?

Building – The manmade environment. Specific structures and their construction. What is the total cost our effect over the whole life of the structure?

Tools & Technology – Physical objects that are required to manipulate the environment and concepts relating to how they function. What tools are commonly used?

Education & Culture – Specific, local ideas relating to how life is lived and how that information is transmitted. What is unique about the local culture?

Health & Spiritual Wellbeing – The effect that something has on its environment, both physically and mentally. What does it’s scale and demeanor tell us about ourselves?

Finances & Economics – How the materials are obtained and brought to a site vs how they are extracted. The larger flow of materials and its scale. How does it fit into the economy?

Land Tenure & Community Governance – How decisions are made about a space or it’s inhabitants. Who is included. In what ways do you or the world around you participate?

In the permaculture course with the GLPDC, in each of the topics we teach, we strive to fill our designs with all the domains of the petals.

Design Methods, Mapping & Process

Systems Thinking & Pattern Language

Ethics & Principles

Patterns & Pattern Application

Microclimates

Reading the Landscape

Water

Earthworks

Animals

Economic Systems

Invisible Structures

Pattern Language & Conceptual Design

The Design Interview

The Local Ecosystem

Trees, Forests, Plants, and Cultivated Ecologies

Tropical, Arid, & Cool Climates

Broadscale Landscape Design

Urban Permaculture

Ecovillage and Neighborhood Design

Climates/ Biogeography

The Built Environment

Energy & Appropriate technology

Garden Design/Seed Saving/IPM

Waste & Bioremediation

Climate & Biogeography

Home System

Soil

Aquaculture

Design for Catastrophe

Access to Land (Settlement Patterns)

If you’re interested in learning more about permaculture taking a PDC, especially a local one. Check out our PDC in the SE Michigan area at glpdc.info.

The Permaculture Flower I

So I’ve been working with the GLPDC to create lectures for our ongoing PDC. We’ve adopted using the permaculture flower, by David Holmgren, as a landmark for each topic but I’m thinking it works differently than we initially understood. Before we thought that a topic, say water, would manifest certain petals of the flower. Now I think it’s  the opposite. The whole flower manifests through every topic; it’s why instead of what.

What’s more the flower can be divided into two distinct groups. Things that manifest in the physical world, like buildings, trees, swales, etc. and those that are invisible structures: education, community governance, finance. 

Integral Permaculture Flower Internal/External

Notice that I’ve rotated the flower so that the top three petals represent the physical and the the bottom four are “invisible” as if they are roots below.

So, to take the example of water:

Land & Nature Stewardship
How we take care of the physical water we have. 

Building
Dams, ponds, piping, water treatment plants.

Tools & Technology
How we treat, move, and clean water. 

While the three above are not exclusively physical, they have very real manifestations in the physical environment.  You can go to a place, walk into a building, and grab a tool. You can’t do that with the others. They arise emergently out of the combination of people, physical places and things: 

Land Tenure & Community Governance
Regulations and requirements, how we use, or even how we think about water. Who owns it.

Finances & Economics
The business and cost of water.

Health & Spiritual Well-being
Our health in relationship to the water around us or the spirit or life of the water (see Spirited Away for one manifestation of this).

Education & Culture
How we act and communicate the importance, care for, and cleaning of water.

The flower gives us an organization and structure for different aspects of how water can be used and thought of. The same holds true for any other topic in permaculture. We can orient ourselves to the different petals of the flower on a topic, thereby seeing (and then being able to make use of) the patterns of.

 

 

 

 

Permaculture Flower

Permaculture Flower SquareAs we pursue our interests in permaculture, sometimes it feels like we’re out there all alone. If we take a broader view and look at the whole picture it’s easy to find people who, while they’re not doing the same things we are, are engaged in same process. Knowing how our work is related can enhance what we do.

David Holmgren illustrated this beautifully in his Permaculture Flower design. Not only is it packed with information, but its arranged in a meaningful way. This one graphic goes a long way towards explaining the whole of permaculture. This and more are available on his website Permaculture Principals and everything there is worth investing time into.